Archive for August, 2009

20 Years of PROSALES

By Building Experts Team

Congratulations PROSALES for 20 years of news and information about building materials dealers.  In a time when many will argue that print has become obsolete, you continue to provide great value to your readers, and have picked up on a few social media tricks along the way to expand the reach of your expert content.

feature p20 1 20 Years of PROSALES

Credit Brian Walker

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, PROSALES has presented The PS20 – their list of the 20 people, trends, concepts, tools, and initiatives that we believe have had the greatest impact on the construction supply industry during PROSALES’ history.  You won’t be surprised by much of the list, but it stood out to us because it’s sure to create conversations.  Imagine the discussions taking place if they had ranked them.

What/who you’ll find on the list:

  • Joe Hardy
  • The Home Depot
  • The Housing Bubble
  • Information technology
  • Mobile phones
  • Specialty materials dealers
  • Engineered, composite and plastic lumber

Information technology seems like such an archaic term these days, but you could venture to say it had the biggest impact on the list, especially if you consider how it has radically transformed communication today, making it possible for someone to never have to leave their home.  Where do you rank the PS20 members?

Assuming they make it another 20 years, and we hope you do, imagine what’s going to be on the 4oth anniversary list (PS40 we presume)?  Social media, iPhone applications, augmented reality, robots, implanted computer chips, time travel…

By Building Experts Team

1013 45 banner build weeklyintel3 Weekly Intel: Top Links of the Week

Green’s going mainstream with a new breed of green home superstores

Lowe’s to enter Australia

Adjustable mortgages loom as threat to housing recovery

UL Environment to help NAHB, furniture group with certifications

Carbon disclosure demands rising…are corporations ready for full transparency?

Peek inside Senator Ted Kennedy’s Washington DC home


By Building Experts Team

As you’ve read throughout this blog on numerous occasions the light may be visible at the end of the tunnel for the residential and real estate markets.  Slowly, but surely, things are beginning to look better.  But what about commercial construction?

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) chief economist Anirban Basu, commercial construction typically lags economic recovery by several months.  In a recent article from Memphis, Tennessee’s Commercial Appeal, Basu said, “We had a very good sense that shovel ready didn’t mean immediately ready,” referring to the stimulus bills’ advocates who claimed the money would be immediately injected into the economy. “Projects needed to be planned and bid out. It takes time before they are converted into contractual obligations.”  Basu also added, “Many segments of commercial real estate remain in very bad shape.  There is a general lack of financing and job losses lead to decreasing office, retail and hotel occupancy rates.  None of that helps construction.  So although many economists are calling the recession over, the commercial real estate industry has many more months — probably years — before it recovers.”

To get an accurate read on the future, the ABC unveiled its Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) just last month. The CBI is a forward-looking measurement tool reflecting the amount of work for commercial and industrial contractors in the months ahead.  In the inaugural report, the nation’s nonresidential construction industry rebounded in May to 6.3 months, up from 6.2 months in April, but still down by roughly 0.8 months since November 2008, when ABC began collecting data.  During the past seven months, nonresidential backlog is down by an average of 24 days.

backlog banner Not So Stimulated Commercial Construction Activity

The rest of 2009 looks bleak according to Building Design & Construction – so prepare yourself.  Things always get worse before they get better.  It’s bad enough over half of Americans think the stimulus as a whole isn’t working.  It’s safe to say Basu may be right.  It won’t be until 2010 at the earliest until we finally see activity pick up within the industry.  For now, plans will remain… well, plans.  Even then, who knows?  Here’s to optimism.

picture 11 Not So Stimulated Commercial Construction Activity

By Building Experts Team

For just over a year, the U.S. government has offered a tax credit to first time homebuyers.  Just within the month of August more tax credit news has developed and we suspect we’ll see eve more.  Here’s a quick recap of some of the current initiatives in place created to spur activity in the housing market, help save companies from eliminating more jobs and improve the environment.

First-time homebuyer tax credit – the shovel that’s trying to dig us out of a big hole

Clearly the first-time homebuyer tax credit has been a big success.  Home sales have been rising over the past few months as a result.  But when it expires in November, we’re really going to feel the impact.

Congress currently has two bills pending with the intent to extend the first-time homebuyer tax credit, awaiting decisions from both the House and Senate.  Not only could the deadline be extended, but the credit amount would almost be doubled.

jhi200x200 Reinvesting in America: A Second Time for the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit and moreInstead of offering $8,000, Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson co-sponsored the bill that looks to raise the credit amount to a maximum of $15,000. Apparently he’s not the only one interested, 70 million homeowners want it as well.  In addition to raising the credit limit, the bill would also:

  • Expand eligibility to any buyer
  • Eliminate the income cap
  • Extend the tax credit for one year from the date of enactment

Credit on windows and doors – seal it up and save

There is now a tax credit offered to homeowners who replace their older windows and doors with new energy efficient ones before the end of 2010.  As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. government is offering back 30% of the product cost until you reach a cap amount of $1,500, not including installation.  As expected, the window and door manufacturers have made this the focus of their current marketing efforts.

picture 1 Reinvesting in America: A Second Time for the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit and more

Appliance rebate program – coming soon to a home near you

This Fall a $300 million appliance-rebate program, another feature of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will encourage the purchase of energy-efficient appliances, including dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines.  Consumers could receive up to $200 per appliance for buying Energy Star qualified models.  Rebates amounts will be determined by your state.  Much like the Energy Tax Credit advertisements, you can expect to see an aggressive push from the manufacturers to educate and entice consumers.

Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance – remodelers REEP the benefits

The Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance program, better known as REEP, is part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 and was created to reduce energy consumption in existing residential and commercial buildings.  Pending Senate approval, grant money would be provided to state energy offices and passed through to homeowners as retorfit incentives.  Much like the Energy Tax Credit, this will significantly increase remodeling activity.  Learn more about REEP from Remodeling Magazine.

So if you’re a consumer who found this blog, or happen to be someone in the market for a new home, here’s what you do to take advantage of these incentives and continue to stimulate the housing market. Buy an exisiting home, retrofit it with new windows and appliances, find other ways to reduce energy consumption and potentially save thousands of dollars while feeling good about minmizing your enivonrmental footprint.

Sessions with Social Media

By Building Experts Team

If you haven’t figured it out already, and we suspect that you have, social media can be used for a number of different traditional marketing functions.  What we love about it, is that social media always challenges you to use your imagination.  It can also make your more standard responsibilities simpler, and fun.  Lets take a look.

Research and testing

2009 0810 js milfordevent0242 300x200 Sessions with Social MediaGeneral Motors recently invited a large number of consumers, analysts and journalists to get an advanced look at future car designs and test current models.  These weren’t your average customers though, they were people throughout the country who have a very loud and respected voice online. Take Joel Feder.  If you look at his Twitter profile, he’s clearly an auto enthusiast and has been recognized for his influence. One particular car on display was a proposed compact crossover from Buick.  The car was so poorly received and openly criticized online, they decided to pull the plug just two weeks after it was announced.

Smart move by GM and it sounds like an even smarter move to kill the car.  We can safely say that the “new” GM is living up to their new promise of listening and reacting to their customers.  They’re using social media to improve their tarnished image, change perceptions and make calculated business decisions.

e07697ef 2779 417d 846f b3322a984e82 original Sessions with Social Media

Even when things aren’t going bad, sometimes you just need a little help from your friends.  Take Kodak for example.  They have a great new pocket video camera expected to compete with the Flip, but the name, Zi8, has been anything but well received.  Kodak is taking this opportunity to not only connect with their customers on a deeper level, inviting them to contribute to the marketing process, but also seeding the product to spurn some good old-fashioned word of mouth.  Consumers were invited to submit their entry via a blog comment or through Twitter.  Kodak will award Zi8 cameras to 100 random contestants.  The winner will get a trip to Las Vegas to attend the unveiling of the new camera, and have their picture in each new camera.

Re-engage your audience

Do you subscribe to the Home Channel News Hardware Store Digest?  If you do, you should have seen New Product Juggling featured.  It’s pretty simple and entertaining.  And definitely original.  Editor in Chief Ken Clark discusses new products and then proceeds to juggle them.  This is a great example of enhancing your content and the method of delivery (YouTube) to continue to entertain your audience, in this case both the readers and product manufacturers, and hopefully pick up a few new fans through social media engagement.  After watching you’re stuck wondering what other unusual building industry products he could possibly juggle without hurting himself.  Captivating…

The final word

The final word today comes from Jeremiah Owyang.  Jeremiah was the first blogger to become an analyst (for Forrester Research), and probably the most prominent example of advancing your career through social media.  In an interview last week with ReadWriteWeb, he really grabbed our attention when he explained his work philosophy:

“I believe you have to pay yourself first. When you open your email you pay someone else, because it’s usually people reaching out to ask you for something. Taking the time to read blogs, synthesize and add value, that builds your community. That’s paying yourself first.”

Lesson learned. Pay yourself first tomorrow morning, it pays off in the end.

By Building Experts Team

1013 45 banner build weeklyintel2 Weekly Intel: Top Links of the Week

Building Design & Construction 2009 Building Team Awards announced

The top 50 green outsourcing vendors

NAHB’s Certified Green Professional designation growing strong

Cash for Clunkers moves to appliances to spur sales

California’s Green Building Code (first of its kind) to begin this month

By greeniq
greenoffice main full Community Reinvestment Fund Announces Green Loan Program Today

Complements of ehow.com

The nonprofit Community Reinvestment Fund USA announced, today, that they would launch a pilot project in the Twin Cities to provide small businesses with loans for green building improvements. The pilot is scheduled to begin in 2010 and will be one of the first of its kind – hopefully laying the groundwork for additional programs across the US.

” ‘Proportionally, small businesses pay more for energy than large firms, making them more vulnerable to energy-price increases — yet, most existing energy-conservation loan programs only support large capital investments,” Frank Altman, the fund’s president and CEO, said in a news release.” (From Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal)

The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal also reports that the loan product will be an extension of existing loans that are funded with New Markets Tax Credits, in which the federal government provides tax credits for investments in low-income communities.

The announcement raises hope that small businesses can begin making changes that many large corporations have already begun, creating more opportunities for green builders and green entrepreneurs.

By Building Experts Team

linkedin logo1 Getting LinkedIn to the Building Industry: Tips on Using LinkedIn to Help Your BusinessWhen you’re part of the building industry, no matter how long, you know that networking and relationships are two vital components to success.  We’re also going to assume you’re familiar with the rapidly growing business-networking site, LinkedIn.

LinkedIn now boasts over 45 million users (that’s 15 million more than this past February), 60% of which are male at an average age of 41.  Even more interesting is that almost 50% of typical LinkedIn users are considered a business decision maker.  We deem this an important note if you’re considering whether “it’s worth it.” Although one might question why you’re having to consider.

What we’re getting at here is if you’re currently not taking advantage of LinkedIn, you should be.  If you do have a profile, do you feel you’re fully leveraging its capabilities?  Below is our list of the top 10 best practices to get LinkedIn to the building industry:

  1. Brand yourself. Your profile is a product of you, personally and professionally.  Invest time in including the appropriate assets and promoting it through multiple channels.  One easy, effective tip is to customize your hyperlink to include your name or business, and then add the link to your business cards, email signature and Web site (e.g. http://www.linkedin.com/in/firstnamelastname).
  2. Ask and you shall receive. A wallflower won’t be approached, so request LinkedIn connections and you’ll have the favor returned.  However, be careful you don’t spread yourself too thin.  Invite contacts mainly within your industry, and a good tip from WiredPRWorks is to craft your profile so that it complements the audience you are targeting with products and services.  Be sure every invitation to connect is a fit with your profile.
  3. Grow in groups. Joining LinkedIn Groups is the equivalent of becoming involved in a community.  As a member, you can grow networks, uncover common interests and experiences, maintain relationships and collaborate with colleagues and prospects.  Groups also provide additional avenues to expand your brand and expertise.  Try joining an existing group or create one of your own.white house featured qa Getting LinkedIn to the Building Industry: Tips on Using LinkedIn to Help Your Business
  4. Question and answer. You should do both.  LinkedIn Answers is an ideal place to collect business information, share your expertise and interests, and start conversations on current hot topics.  Responding to relevant questions on a regular basis will position you as an expert on LinkedIn and in your industry.
  5. Optimize. Keywords are, well, key to driving exposure to your LinkedIn profile.  For starters, keep your profile fresh with the latest information related to your products and services.  A tip from the LinkedIn Blog: go beyond updating your summary and include keywords in your “Specialties” section.  If appropriate, also add geographical information to localize searches.
  6. Not-so-little extras. After its five years of existence, LinkedIn launched a range of applications to enhance users’ experience of connecting, sharing and partnering with others in business.  These applications provide the necessary tools to improve file sharing, project management, business trips and more.  Utilize these applications to enhance your profile, grow interest in your company and simplify communications.  GoMLMBizBlog said it best, “In the end, your LinkedIn profile should be about ‘working smarter, not harder’ to get connections.”
  7. Research and sourcing. Your activity on LinkedIn is not required to always be outward-facing.  Poke around and research the profiles of prospects and competitors.  Google is one outlet, but LinkedIn profiles can be rich with information about particular backgrounds and interests.  You may also be surprised to find specific connections with a company or individual that could lead to recommendations and/or more business.
  8. Recommendations and reputations. The insight of others on your LinkedIn profile plays a key role to building your reputation.  The LinkedIn Blog puts it pretty well: “Reputation matters, transparency matters and content matters.”  Recommendations are “social proof,” so, for example, being recommended as an expert is just one more way to promote yourself and gain credibility though LinkedIn.
  9. Building your team. In this day and age, hiring the best talent is a key driver for success.  LinkedIn is an excellent hiring tool and serious job hunters are making sure their profiles are complete and detailed to reflect their professional brand.  Searching LinkedIn profiles for candidates will provide a one-stop shop for professional summaries, skill sets, contacts, recommendations and even photos.
  10. Find old industry friends. LinkedIn doesn’t need to be all about work and no play.  It can be fun to seek out old colleagues and industry friends to find out, “where are they now?”  You can even use the mobile application while on the road to connect with old friends when you’re in town.  However, we can almost guarantee that you’ll network with an old companion to ultimately find yourself making that next business connection.

If you clicked any of the links within this post, you probably discovered that we find the LinkedIn blog to be one of the top resources for enhancing your experience, as to be expected. You should read it regularly, as well as advice and commentary from leading marketing experts, if you’re committed to capitalizing on your presence within the community and looking to stay In the picture and help your business.

By Building Experts Team

We’ve got some great news – we closed today.  We’re handing over the keys to the blog to our first guest writer from outside the company.  Kim Hibbs is a custom home builder from St. Louis.  He took time away from his business, and his own blog, to give us a few hundred words and a fresh perspective.  Considering the existing economic conditions and the state of the housing market, you’d expect Kim to be jaded.  The reality is, he has an encouraging outlook on everything and his business is a major beneficiary because of it.


It’s the news builders have been waiting for – new home sales were up in June, pending home sales continue to rise, and mortgage applications are up substantially.  It appears we’ve finally hit bottom in the real estate free fall (some say crash) of the past two and a half years.

As a custom home builder in St. Louis, I couldn’t be more pleased and relieved with the news.  But any euphoria is quickly tempered by our industry’s past struggles.  Many builders have been forced to close their doors.  Some got too greedy and have no one to blame but themselves.  Others simply got caught holding too much land or inventory and tightening credit standards were too much to overcome.

While many builders would like to forget the past, I say let’s remember it – every day!  Maybe it will keep us from repeating some of the same mistakes.  What can builders learn?

  • Limit land holdings and speculative building
  • Control growth
  • Focus on day-to-day business operations
  • Diversify services
  • Adapt to new market conditions focusing on smaller more efficient homes
  • Make a commitment to customer service

Those are the guiding principals behind Hibbs Homes and we remain extremely busy with revenue growing substantially over the past two years.  The positive news of late excites me.  If we’re busy now, what will the future hold?  Even more success I hope, but only after remembering and learning from the past.


lgo hh Crash and Learn: Lessons for a Home Builder from a Home Builder Kim Hibbs (@kimhibbs), owner of Hibbs Homes, is a Certified Green Professional (CGP), sits on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of St. Louis, and is the Chairman of the St. Louis HBA’s Custom Home Builder’s Council.

By Building Experts Team

Thanks to @rohitbhargava, we learned some new Twitter slang yesterday that we’re sure we’ll be using extensively over the weekend.

Twanker [twaink-er]

-adjective

An egocentric individual, celebrity or organization who uses Twitter only for one-way broadcasting about their own greatness.

Origin:

10 Basic Rules of Twitter (And How To Avoid Being A Twanker)

How would you use it in a sentence? Britney Spears is a Twanker.


No matter how ridiculous this new Twitter terminology is becoming, it’s now part of the culture. There are definitely rules to live by in the community (or Twitterhood?), and Rohit has them pretty well covered in his post.



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